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Among the observatories of the world one of the oldest, 
and which has continued to function down to the present day, 
is the Peking Observatory of China. According to history the 
Alexandria Observatory of the Greeks, the Baghdad and 
Mokattam Observatories of the Mohammedans, and the Meragha 
Observatory of the Mongols were built comparatively earlier; 
but the first only flourished for less than four hundred years since 
its construction, while the rest were mostly built for certain 
astronomers of the age and disappeared without notice after a 
period of some tens or hundreds of years. The Peking 
Observatory, however, the history of which can be traced 
back to its very beginning, has endured for eight hundred 


Peking has been the capital of five successive dynasties. 
Liao was the first to occupy it, but owing to constant troubles 
from outside, serious attention was not paid to astronomical 
establishments. After the battle of Tsin Kang (1126 A.D.) 
King captured all the astronomical instruments in Pien Liang, 
Sung's Capital, and brought them to Peking, but it was not 
until the second year of Cheng Yen (1154 A.D.) that one of 
the captured instruments was first placed upon the Howtai 



of the Academy of Astronomy. Yen, in its early years, chose 
King's old site for its observatory ; but in the sixteenth year 
of Chi Yen (1279 A.D.) the station was reconstructed and 
renamed Szetientai which has stood in its original site up to 
the present day. As the south wall of the capital of Yen 
dynasty ran along the east and west of the present Chang An 
Street, the observatory in those days was outside the south 
city wall ; during the Ming dynasty the city was extended, 
southward in the seventeenth year of Yung Lo (1419 A.D.). 
The observatory became automatically situated inside the wall 
namely, inside Hatamen, on the north of Paotzeho and south 
of Tzihwamen. There was no change during the Ching 
dynasty ; and on establishment of the Chinese Republic, it 
assumed its present name, the Central Observatory. Such is 
in short the historical sketch of the Peking Observatory. 

This observatory in the former dynasties was only a 
place of observation. It was called Howtai in King dynasty 
belonging to the Academy of Astronomy, Szetientai in Yen 
dynasty subject to Taiszeyuen, and Kwansingtai or Kwansiantai 
in Ming and China dynasties, both under the control of 
Chingtien Kien. Since the establishment of the Republic it 
is called the Central Observatory ; but, though it constitutes 
a part of the Ministry of Education, its functions are two-fold, 
executive as well as technical. Under the technical depart- 
ment there are four bureaus, the Astronomical, the Almanac, 
the Meteorological and the Magnetical. There are three heads 
composing the executive department, viz, the Secretary, the 
Accountant, and the Commissioner. 





The study of astronomical instruments began long ago 
in China. We shall not mention the instruments constructed 
prior to the Sung dynasty, as they did not form a part of 
this observatory. When King removed Sung's instruments 
from its capital and conveyed them to Peking, they were 
stored in the "Storehouse for Imperial Attendants". After a 
lapse of twenty years the ancient armilla was removed to the 
Howtai of the Academy of Astronomy. As the distance from 
Pien Liang to Peking is more than 1000 li, the difference of 
latitude made it necessary to elevate the observing tube four 
degrees in order to get sight of the Polaris. In the eighth 
moon of the sixth year of Ming Chang (1196 A.D.) there 
was a great storm. Not only was the Observatory building 
damaged but the ancient armilla fell. Repairs were made and 
the armilla was placed in the Observatory again. In tne reign 
of Tcheng Yu of the King dynasty (1214 A.D.) the capital 
was removed from Peking to Honan. The ancient armilla 
was left at Peking owing to its great weight which, taken as 
a whole, would be difficult to convey from place to place. 

When Yen selected Peking as its capital, this instru- 
ment was minutely examined by Ko Show King, the Astrono- 
mer Royal, and, being found very unsatisfactory, was removed 
to a different place. He then made, of his own design, and 
in the thirteenth year of Chi Yen (1276 A.D.) several instru- 
ments in its stead of which the most famous were the 


Abridged Armilla, the Polaris Circle, the Concave Hemisphere, 
the Vertical Circle, the Stellar Dial, &c., &c. After the capture 
of Peking by the Ming troops the newly made instruments 
were transported to Nanking and the observations at Peking 
were suspended for the time being. But after Cheng Tsu, 
the second Emperor of the Ming dynasty, had rechosen 
Peking as the Northern Capital, four instruments, the Ancient 
Armilla, the Abridged Armilla, the Celestial Globe and the 
Gnomon, were constructed after the old models in the second 
year of Tseng Tung (1437 A.D.) ; and with the exception of the 
Celestial Globe which was lost subsequently, the other three 
are still preserved in the present Observatory. Though their 
component parts are somewhat incomplete, yet they give us 
some idea of the mechanical dexterity of our forefathers. 

"in the thirteenth year of Kang Hi (1674 A.D.) of the 
Ching dynasty, six new instruments were made. They are the 
Celestial Globe, Armilla of the Ecliptic System, Armilla of the 
Equatoreal System, Theodolite, Quadrant, and Sextant. Later 
on, in his fifty-fourth year (1715 A.D.), an Altazimuth was 
also made. In the ninth year of Kien Lung (1744 A.D.), the 
New Armilla and Gnomon were made, and in his eleventh 
year, the Clepsydra. Accordingly, the old instruments inherit- 
ed from the Ming dynasty, were taken down and replaced by 
the new ones. At present, there are eight instruments up on 
the top of the Observatory. From east to west there stands 
first the Armilla of the Equatoreal System, then the Sextant, 
the Altazimuth, the Theodolite, the Armilla of the Ecliptic 
System ; thence northward first the Celestial Globe, then 


the Quadrant ; and thence eastward is the New Armilla of 
Kien Lung. There are four instruments down on the Obser- 
vatory ground : the clepsydra and Gnomon on the south side, 
and the Ancient and Abridged Armillas on the north side of 
the old Gnomon Room. The above mentioned twelve inst- 
ruments, which were all made in Peking and which have been 
in use for several hundred years, are gathered together in the 
present Observatory ; and in order to keep them in good 
condition, they are taken care of by special members of the 


Since the establishment of the Republic there has been 
a change in the organization of the Observatory, and its 
achievements are therefore based upon the tendency and 
requirements of the present day. In addition to the publica- 
tion of books and periodicals to supply new ideas of astronomy 
to the public, men of special ability are being trained for 
doing practical work. 

For the purpose of making astronomical observations 
the Observatory publishes, first of all, books of practical use. 
The year book, issued since the third year of the Republic 
and entitled Kwansian Sweishoo, contains ephemerides of the 
Sun, Moon, Planets, Standard and Occultation stars ; and also 
eclipse elements and maps, and the astronomical phenomena. 
The book is published not only for the purpose of keeping 
time but it forms an important factor and should be depended 


upon in comparing the celestial motions and computing their 
various phenomena, in Geodesy and Navigation. The book 
is modelled after the Nautical Almanac of England or the 
Connaisence des temps of France, specially prepared for technical 
use, and far better and more detailed than the old publication 
of Tsi Cheng Ginwei in the Ching dynasty. As to books 
for public use, there is the Calendar of the Republic, 
containing the Gregorian date, the Chinese Kangchi, week 
days, the mean time of the Sun's meridian passage, phases of 
the moon, seasons of the year, eclipses, festivals, and a brief 
explanation on the general principle of celestial motions. The 
latter is specially introduced in order to give the public some 
ideas of Astronomy and to get rid of the time-worn 

At present the Observatory is not fully equipped and 
its instruments are not quite complete. But what we have or 
belong to the Government, are all the productions of famous 
European and American manufacturers. They are the Transit 
Theodolite by Carl Zeiss, No. 12776 ; the Universal Instrument 
by Carl Bamberg, No. 8996 ; both German productions which 
are considered to be among the best. There are also the 
newtonian Reflector and the Equatoreal Refractor driven by 
clock works, by Secretan ; and the Prismatic Astrolabe by 
Jobin, both being French firms ; and the Sextant by Hughes 
and Sons, Ltd, of England. As to time-keeping instruments 
there are chronometers No. 99 by Dencker of Germany, No. 
8178 by Kelvin and James White Ltd. of England, and Nos. 
1035, 1542, and 1544 bv Nardin of Switzerland. 


The Meteorological department is a new organization 
since the establishment of the Republic. It was planned in 
the Fall of the second year and was formally organized in 
the Spring ot the fourth year. The following instruments are 
all bought from abroad, namely, Fortin barometers, Donnelot 
barometers, aneroid barometers by Negretti and Zambra, 
barographs, thermographs and hygrographs all by Richard, 
maximum and minimum thermometers, terrestrial radiation 
and the earth thermometers, and anemographs, while those 
made by the Observatory itself are the nephoscopic Herse, 
hygrometers, wind direction vanes, and rain gauges. In the 
tenth year of the Republic in front of the Observatory, a 
large, flat piece of grass land was enclosed wherein a barometer 
room and a thermometer screen were erected, and a nephoscope, 
sunshine recorder, actinometer, and some others were located. 
The meteorological equipments are therefore comparatively 
complete. As to the number of observations, they can be 
divided into three periods. 

In the first period which comprised both the time of 
preparation and commencement, observations were taken only 
twice a day, 9 a. m. and 9 p.m. 

In the second period which occupied the whole third 
year of the Republic, observations were taken four times a 
day, 8 a.m., 12 noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. 

In the third period commencing from the fourth year 
of the Republic down to the present, observations are taken 
hourly or 24 times a day, by six persons by turns. Peking 
weather forecasts are issued twice a day, morning and evening 


and at 9 a.m. signals are also hoisted. Weather maps are 
drawn and posted at or before 5 p.m. Following is a weather 
map of the third of May in the twelfth year of the Republic 
(May 3, 1923), giving a general idea of our meteorological 
service every day. As to the monthly isobaric map, isothermal 
map, and the traces of centers of the atmospheric pressure, 
they are all contained in detail in the Bulletin Meteorologique. 
The construction of the v/eather maps is based upon the 
telegraphic reports from meteorological stations along the coast 
and main rivers and upon foreign exchange telegrams. Since 
the third year of the Republic the stations under the control 
of Maritime Custom House send messages twice a day. 
Recently, as the number of stations increases and exchanged 
telegrams from abroad become more and more, such telegrams 
received by the Observatory amount to more than one 
hundred a day. For the sake of convenience and promptness 
in the sending and receiving of such telegrams, the Ministry 
of Communications has established a special telegraph office 
in the Observatory and dispatched some of their members to 
take charge of its affairs. 

In the tenth year of the Republic, he Aeronautical 
Bureau contemplated constructing air lines between Peking 
and Shanghai, Peking and Hankow, and Peking and Tsinan; 
and for the safety of such air services the Bureau asked the 
Observatory to make weather forecasts for them. So in 
addition to ordinary daily weather forecasts there are also the 
periodical prediction and temporary prediction. Owing to the 
lack of stations in the interior, a proposal for the erection of 

meteorological stations in the Western and Northern frontier 
provinces was consequently drawn up. This proposal met 
with the approval of the Cabinet and funds were appropriated 
for the purpose. Of the forty stations proposed, only one 
half have been completed. This is due either to the lack 
of necessary means or of specially-trained persons. The 
following diagram shows the districts where the stations are 
to be built in the Western and Northern provinces and also 
the tendency of the future developments of the meteorological 
service. As to the exchange of telegrams among nations, not 
less than ten of them have been consulted and arrangements 
have been made, but up to the present only one-third of 
this number are carrying out the arrangements. This is due 
to the fact that the question of free charge for telegrams 
exchanged between China and the other nations for such 
purposes has not been definitely settled yet. 

The preparation for magnetic observation is of recent 
origin ; and though the time is not long enough to show 
any substantial result, yet what has been done is already of 
some value. We have had a permanent observation in the 
observatory and a comparison of the variations of magnetic 
force around the suburb. We have selected like places as 
stations and will dispatch persons to take Observations all 
around. Besides we have decided to take magnetic observa- 
tions along the coast and rivers at certain dates, we have also 
constructed the magnetic charts of Tientsin and Kwen-Shang. 
The instruments used in this connection are all of English 
make; the magnetometer by Cooke, No. 28, and the inclin- 
ometer by Cassella, No. 2000. 


Within the length and breadth of China earthquakes 
happen practically every day. In view ot the immense damage 
to the Western and Northern frontier provinces caused by 
such catastrophes, the Observatory intends to find out the 
epicentrums. This is being done by preparing blank-form 
sheets containing definite items, sending these sheets to the 
various districts, and asking the magistrates there to fill up 
the forms when earthquakes occur, no matter what the amount 
of damage may be. These filled-in sheets are then to be 
returned to the Observatory for study and reference. In the 
seventh year of the Republic when the Swatow Earthquake 
took place, the Observatory dispatched some members to 
investigate the cause of this catastrophe. From the information 
submitted by our members and reports received from various 
district-magistrates, an isoseismic map has been drawn up 
which is attached herewith. After the great Earthquake of 
Kansu which happened on the sixteenth of December in the 
ninth year of the Republic, another map has also been made 
by combining the reports of thirty-three districts. Such reports 
and maps are indispensable for the study of epicentrums and 
the forces of the various earthquakes. 


The foregoing statement gives the past conditions of 
the Observatory, from which it can be seen that as regards 
the different branches of observation we have only laid a 
foundation. In order that it may prosper to full extent, 
the observatory should be enlarged & improved. On the one 
hand we should prepare men of special ability to undertake 


the work of observation ; on the other hand, we should try 
to cooperate with the observatories of other nations. In hope 
that good results may be obtained in the future the present 
plans are under consideration. 

The Equatoreal room with revolving dome and the 
Transit room are the important features of the observatory 
and should be built without delay. A place has already been 
chosen for the sites of these constructions. It is on the 
summit of the Western Hills, 30 li from Peking, whose height is 
1100 ft. above the sea level. When the building is completed, 
four departments will be organized The first will be the 
Astrophysical Observation Department, which is to make 
observations on sun-spots, prominences or protuberances, 
hydrogen bombs, temperature and constitution of celestial 
bodies, clusters and nebulae, proper motion of stars, &c. 
The second will be the Meridian Observation Department, 
and its function is to determine the celestial longitude and 
latitude or the right ascension and declination. The third will 
be the Time Department, which is to keep time and to 
examine or verify clocks and chronometers. The fourth will 
be the Miscellaneous Observation Department which, as the 
name implies, is to make observations on various appearances 
or phenomena, such as comets, shooting stars, meteors, 
occultations, and eclipses of satellites. The Asbite of Carl 
Zeiss will be the instrument used in the equatoreal room, 
while the meridian circle of Repsold will be used in the 
transit room. These two instruments are now under construc- 


Due precaution has been taken that all constructions 
should be solid and that all equipments should be complete, 
because the Observatory can not co-operate with those of 
other nations unless these requirements are fulfilled. In the 
third year of the Republic, China was invited by the foreign 
Powers to participate in the International Bureau of Unific- 
ation of Hours. Hereafter she may be asked to carry out the 
scheme for the unification of hours, a step which is very 
important and should not be postponed in the Far East. A 
constant study of or investigation in Astrophysics, celestial 
Mechanics, and Optics paves the way for new inventions and 
discoveries in the field of Astronomy. Very recently, more 
than ten universities have been established in Peking and the 
Provinces, all of which aim to raise the study of sciences and 
pay special attention to Physics and Chemistry. The number 
of students of these two sciences increases daily, but they 
can not hope to do any work unless they have undergone 
certain practical Training. In this respect the equipments of 
the Observatory can render an excellent service in that it can 
be used as the students' laboratories for making necessary 

China is essentially an agricultural nation. To render 
this industry prosperous we have to make observations on 
the fall of rain throughout the country and to inform the 
farmers of the fitness of their land. For this purpose the 
observatory has laid down a plan on the National Rain 
Observation which, through the Ministry of Education, has 
been notified to the various provinces and which is to 


be taken charge of by a school in every district. At 
present more than one hundred districts are carrying on 
the work and the rest of them, amounting to more than 1600, 
are expected to do the same within one year. And as soon 
as the nation is belter off financially, such observations will 
be extended from the districts to the villages. Thus after a 
few years whether a given district will have a scarcity or 
abundance of rain can be ascertained at a glance from the 
maps thus compiled. For the benefit of farmers the Obser- 
vatory will telegraph to the various districts reports of the 
general meteorological conditions by which any station in any 
district will make, by comparing them with the local climate, 
a district agricultural prediction for the information of the 

Meteorological telegrams are being exchanged free of 
charge among the European nations, and recently such 
exchanges are being similarly effected between Europe and 
America. This is because the causes of meteorological changes 
are far and wide, and more and more reports from distant 
stations are required in investigating the cause. For the pur- 
pose of getting into close touch with the conditions of climate 
in the world, the Observatory will first arrange with the 
Eastern and Northern neighbours to exchange such telegrams, 
then with Europe, and then with America. Since the European 
war, wireless telegrams have been resorted to a large extent 
and their uses have been developed by leaps and bounds. 
The Observatory has trained some students for this purpose 
and has bought a wireless receiver for the daily receipt of 


such reports. It has also been planning to erect a wireless 
transmitter for the sending of such reports as time signals, 
meteorological messages, and earthquake reports. Those 
reports may be received by ships, aeroplanes, and other weather 
bureaus from time to time for their use and reference. 

An aviator who does not understand the changes of 
meterological phenomena is just like a sailor who has no 
knowledge about the ebb and flow of tides. Meteorology 
in relation to aviation is only the discussion of atmospheric 
currents. In former times attention was solely paid to lower 
currents ; but as the changes of lower currents have close 
relation to upper currents, the meteorologists have begun to 
realize that the two should be studied simultaneously. During 
the last one hundred years, such processes as to the absort- 
ion of the atmospheric constituents up in the air by empty 
boxes for analytical purposes, and the investigation of the 
flow of currents by sounding balloons, have been made use of 
repeatedly in the European countries ; and dynamic-meteoro- 
logic observatories have been established and the International 
Commission of Scientific Aerostation organized, both for the 
purpose of investigating upper currents. The Observatory, in 
addition to obtaining the wind-direction and specific flow of 
upper currents by various sounding balloons, will pay special 
attention to the observation of clouds. The cloud observation 
is of two kinds ; one on its height, and the other on its character. 
The observation of height is done in two ways : by Nephoscopic 
Herse made by Montsouries of Paris, and by search-light to reflect 
the bottom of the cloud. The height of the clouds can also be 
ascertained by an altazimuth beyond several miles on a plain. 


The value of observation depends partly on the ability 
of men and partly on the precision of instruments. Although 
the degree of precision rests on the hands of the maker, yet 
the man who uses the instruments and desires to have good 
results, should make the necessary adjustments from time to 
time. For instance, we use more than 10 instruments in 
taking a complete meteorological observation ; and should 
special attention have not been paid, and adjustment omitted, 
the error will increase as time goes on, and ultimately the 
precision of observation will be much decreased. From this 
point of view the Observatory has established a suitable room 
or laboratory where standard instruments are stored. Not only 
our own instruments are examined and compared with the 
standard ones at fixed dates, but all the scientific instruments 
used by other institutions may be sent over for verification. Once 
done, a certificate is issued, containing the necessary corrections 
for practical use. As has been suggested by the International 
Aeronautic Conference, all the instruments, such as barometers, 
speed indicators, chronometers, &c, that are used in aviation, 
have to be verified by the observatory assigned by the Con- 
ference. This ruling has been promulgated and carried out 
in Europe. At present, communications in the air are being 
developed, international air Lines are being extended, and 
the day for thorough traffic in the air around the world is not 
distant. For the convenience of international aviation, it is 
necessary that special preparations should be made. 

Magnetic observation is also important and should not 
be overlooked. About eighty to ninety per cent of both coast 
and river navigation in China have been capitalised and 


operated by foreigners. For the development of their trade and 
for the protection of their lives and properties, the foreigners have 
requested the observatory to make observations on the magnetic 
force from time to time. This has happened once every three or 
five years. In order to comply with these requests, the Obser- 
vatory has chosen Liu-Ying-Ting, near Wen Tswen village, as 
the site for a magnetic station, which is at the back of the 
Western Hills, more than 50 li from Peking. The place is 
very favourable for such kind of construction, as it is not 
affected by any electric force. According to the plans for the 
construction of magnetic stations in foreign countries, there 
are three kinds of houses : the wooden house, the stone 
house and the basement. It is easy to build basements, but 
it is hard to choose the sites. The most popular kind is the 
wooden house. More than fifty per cent of the magnetic 
observatories in foreign countries are built of wood. We 
shall have two pavilions in the magnetic station at Liu-Ying- 
Ting: one the Absolute Magnetic Pavilion and the other the 
Magnetograph Pavilion, all of which are to be built of wood. 
But owing to the extreme temperatures of Peking, a difference 
of 50 degrees between summer and winter, it is probable 
that stone rather than wood will be used. As to the instru- 
ments, they must be fine as well as cheap. Chaslon and 
Mailhars which are much extolled by various countries, are 
the factories that will satisfy these two conditions. The 
Observatory has given their instruments a thorough test and 
found them specially adapted for observatories and indispen- 
sable in making magnetic observations. The Observatory is 


also contemplating to construct an Earthquake observation 
room within the magnetic station. The instruments to be 
used will be the Horizontal Pendulum or Bracket Seismograph 
and Vertical Seismograph, both by Richard of France, and 
Omoris Tromometer. 


The study of the science of Astronomy began very 
early in China. Fu Hi, the first Emperor in the Chinese 
history, looked up the sky and down the earth, Huang Ti 
observed the sun and calculated its position, Tchung and 
Lee took charge of the affairs in relation to Heaven and 
Earth. Later on, Emperor Yao observed the Sun, Moon, and 
Planets, and Emperor Shun tabulated them. Then, in the latter 
Han dynasty, Liu Hung began to acknowledge the variations 
of the moon's motion. In the Tsin dynasty, Yu Hee discovered 
the solar precession and in the North Tsi dynasty, Chang 
Tse Sin calculated the stationary and retardation of planetory 
motions. In the Swei dynasty, Liu Chow fixed the equation 
of the Sun's center. In the Yen dynasty, Ko Show king 
dicussed the old data under seven articles and introduced 
five new methods into theoretical astronomy. This latter is 
considered as the most significant achievement in the science 
of astronomy in China. In the same dynasty observational 
astronomy also rose to the highest attainment. Fourteen persons 
were dispatched east to Korea, west to Kwen Min lake, south 
to Southern Canton and north to Teh-Lin, along the northern 
boundary of China, and the places upon which observations 
were made amounted to twenty-seven. Few discoveries were 


made in the Ming dynasty, and so in the Ching, though in 
this dynasty a few modern methods were indroduced. After 
the establishment of the Republic, the Central Observatory 
has been doing its utmost, trying to emulate the achievements 
of its predecessors on the one hand and to avail itself of the 
modern methods of Western nations on the other. Reforms 
are being introduced and improvements are being made, but 
at such a time as this when the National Treasury is empty 
the Observatory is handicapped in both its equipments and 
improvements. As we know, the Dudley Observatory at 
Albany (N.Y.) the Dearborn Observatory at Chicago, the 
Cincinnati Observatory, and the Listchfield Observatory of 
Hamilton College are all erected by public subscriptions. 
Every Chinese admires the grandeur and magnificence of those 
observatories, but is there no one to follow the steps of the 
Americans ? 




The Following is a list of illustrations printed in the Chinese text. 

Fig. 1 The Old reception hall. 

2 The Ancient armilla 

3 The Abridged armilla 

4 The Old observatory and instruments 

5 The Ecliptic armilla 

6 The Celestial globe 

7 The Quadrant 

8 The Equatoreal armilla 

9 The Theodolite 

10 The Sextant 

11 The Altazimuth 

12 The New armilla 

13 The Present view of the old observatory 

14 The Gnomon 

15 The Clepsydra 

16 The Meteorological yard 

17 The Barograph, thermograph and hygrograph 

18 The Weather chart 

19 The A map of stations 

20 The Universal instruments 

21 The Transit 

22 The Prismatic astrolabe 

23 The Mural telescope 

24 The Equatoreal telescope 

25 The Reflector 

26 The Wireless receiving apparatus 

27 The Magnetometer 

28 The Inclinometer 

29 The Popular observing yard 



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PCT 2 01987 

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